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Intel emerges from innovation sabbatical with a case of Paxville

Dual-cores and a Hot Carl

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Nothing says, "Please forgive me" like a Hot Carl. Er, sorry, a Carl Reiner. Yes, Intel pulled out the old Carl for its launch today of the "Paxville DP" processor - aka Intel's first real dual-core server chip - aka its long-awaited answer to AMD's Opteron.

Intel picked the comic legend to appear at a San Francisco launch event because of his role as director of "The Man with Two Brains." Got the metaphor? (We'll pause while some of the slower readers catch up.) Good.

Vendors like Intel only bring out the celebrity showpieces when they've done something really bad or think they've done something quite spectacular. Intel tried to pass the Reiner showing as more of the latter, but everyone knows it's totally the former.

The world's largest chipmaker has sat by and watched for months as AMD sold dual-core Opteron chips to companies such as IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. Intel originally planned to answer AMD's technology challenge in 2006 but then realized it couldn't take much more of the bad PR or lost sales and rushed this Paxville thing out the door today.So it dangled a Reiner in front of reporters, hoping they'd spend more time on him than the lateness of the chips.

The chip arrives at 2.80GHz with an 800MHz bus and 2MB of Level 2 cache per core. The 64-bit bad boy also has hyperthreading to help certain software loads and demand based switching to improve performance per watt. Customers should see up to a 50 per cent performance boost when comparing systems running on this chip versus current dual-processor boxes, Intel said.

In the next 60 days, Intel plans to deliver a comparable flavor of Paxville for larger, multiprocessor servers. Those chips, called the Xeon Processor 7000, will run up to 3GHz and use a new E8501 chipset.

Don't forget the dual-core Montecito version of Itanium as well, which is still set to ship in the fourth quarter and hit volume in 2006.

Despite being giddy over Paxville, Intel officials spent an awful lot of time talking up the "Bensley" dual-core Xeon DP refresh that will arrive in the first quarter of 2006. It's this chip line that many analysts peg as the real competitor to the high-performing Opteron.

Intel also asked reporters to remind you guys that it has the low-power Sossaman server chip coming in the first half of 2006 and the Merom, Conroe and Woodcrest chips due out for notebooks, desktops and servers in the second half of 2006. Dual-cores everywhere, don't ya know.

Carl Reiner did little to provide perspective on any of this. During a long-winded speech, he kept insisting that Intel should make potato chips as well as processors, thinking that would be really funny. We also heard him mention something about a hot Asian woman and a man who couldn't fart. In between all of this, Reiner managed to mispronounce lots of Intel products, find a way to get a reporter to plug AMD and generally drive anyone listening mental. Eventually, an Intel staffer had to pour ice on Hot Carl and give him the heave ho.

With the release of Paxville for DP systems, AMD will now face its most major test in a long time. The vendor has been happy to take whatever market share it could during Intel's innovation sabbatical. Even if Opteron still outperforms Xeon, AMD has a head-to-head battle on its hands again, and that hasn't boded well for it historically.

All of the major server makers, excluding Sun, have lined up to support Intel's new chip. What's new? ®

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